Saskatchewan appeal court rules on legal fees dispute over residential schools

Several insurance companies are named as defendants in the suit. Global News

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal is allowing an appeal of a lower-court ruling in a dispute between the Canadian government and the Merchant Law Group.

The government has argued that the firm, which represented thousands of residential school survivors, should have to pay back legal fees because of allegations its billings were inflated.

READ MORE: Canadian government claims residential school lawyer committed fraud over fees

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general argued the government would not have entered into an agreement a decade ago to pay the firm $25 million if it had known there were concerns about how much time the company spent working on residential school claims.

Counsel for the law firm has argued the government knew there were concerns about billing and went into negotiations with its eyes wide open, adding that dragging the case into court again was an abuse of process.

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READ MORE: Residential school survivor reacts to allegations against Merchant Law Group

In a decision released Wednesday, Madam Justice Jacelyn Ryan-Froslie provided a written decision – with the other two appeal court justices concurring – that concluded the federal government’s position has merit.

Ryan-Froslie allowed the appeal and set aside the decision by the lower-court judge, adding that Merchant Law Group “shall pay to Canada the costs of the within appeal assessed in the usual way.”

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